Moviescore Media’s third internet-only
release is the score by Brad Sayles for Nathan Todd Sims’ feature film about a
girl torn between two men in her life (one her long-lost first love and the
other a new love) who also has visions of Joan of Arc. The film’s plot sounds
like a JJ Abrams re-invention of the Cassandra narrative, but it holds a couple
of Best Feature trophies from the festival circuit, so there’s probably
something more to it than that.
Brad Sayles is a new name to film scoring, the
liner notes detailing his prior experience as a recording engineer and the
composer of a piece premiered by the Houston Chamber Orchestra called ‘New
England Journey’. For his first film score he has written a melodic work that
meets all the expectations of what a sensitive dramatic film score should do in
its construction. The reflective piano theme of ‘Remembering Christopher’
nicely captures the feeling of remembered first love, returning in ‘Promise’
(with synthetic string harmony). ‘Childhood Memories’ opens with a lovely
flute-oboe duet. Another strong cue is ‘Katy’s Confession’, featuring an
attractive oboe solo.
There’s also a recurring vocal idea for boy
choir – see particularly ‘Main Title’ and ‘The Wedding’ – that presumably
speaks to the appearances by the Maid of Orleans. It’s slightly clichéd, but it
certainly gets the idea across. The highlight of the score is the first half of
the sensitive finale cue ‘Christopher Returns / The Wedding’ (so, she ends up
with her long lost love?) with cello and piano reflecting on thematic material introduced
earlier in the score.
Sadly the score’s appeal is hindered by the
means of the project. What must have been a budget of close to zero
necessitated extensive use of samples to construct the score, with the
occasional real element: the boy choir (doing pro-bono work), and the oboe
soloist the only performers listed. Extensive electronics in a score work best
when their unique colours are used for their own sake, as in Mark Isham’s Crash
or David Julyan’s Following. While there are some neat approximations of
acoustic sounds here (the crashing piano chords in the harsher tracks, the
celli of the concluding track), the dominant style is to synthetically evoke
masses of strings and brass, and it undercuts the emotion in the writing. (To
the point where I’m surprised to see quotes from film reviewers in the liner
notes commenting positively on the score.) If you tend to be bothered by the
use of a sampled orchestra – for example, last year’s Last Flight Out by
the usually-reliable Bruce Broughton – then this score is not for you.
It’s also a score with a lot of filler.
This material would have been much better presented as a twenty-five minute
iTunes score than at nearly an hour’s length. Particular in the more dissonant
cues (also the lengthier ones), ‘Recommitment / Sarah’s Second Vision’ for
example, it feels like the music only makes sense in terms of the drama it accompanies.
Not having seen it, there are long stretches of the album where I’m waiting for
something to happen, and I can only think that a more focused album would have
elicited a higher rating from me.
So I recommend listening to the sound clips
at the label’s website (see above) before purchasing. Or try purchasing a
couple of tracks (the first track, the final track, and those described above
are probably good examples) to sample whether this is your style, and deciding
whether you want more from there. This is the advantage of Movie Score Media’s
internet-focused distribution: that we can buy albums by portions. Mikael
Carlsson is certainly to be credited for going to the effort to get this
obscure but award-winning work released, and I look forward to hearing future
work from Brad Sayles on projects where the budget matches his compositional